Domestic Violence

- 1944-2020

               1.

It was winter, lunar, wet. At dusk
Pewter seedlings became moonlight orphans.
Pleased to meet you meat to please you
said the butcher's sign in the window in the village.

Everything changed the year that we got married.
And after that we moved out to the suburbs.
How young we were, how ignorant, how ready
to think the only history was our own.

And there was a couple who quarreled into the night,
Their voices high, sharp:
nothing is ever entirely
right in the lives of those who love each other.

               2.

In that season suddenly our island
Broke out its old sores for all to see.
We saw them too.
We stood there wondering how

the salt horizons and the Dublin hills,
the rivers, table mountains, Viking marshes
we thought we knew
had been made to shiver

into our ancient twelve by fifteen television
which gave them back as gray and grayer tears
and killings, killings, killings,
then moonlight-colored funerals:

nothing we said
not then, not later,
fathomed what it is
is wrong in the lives of those who hate each other.

             3.

And if the provenance of memory is
only that—remember, not atone—
and if I can be safe in
the weak spring light in that kitchen, then

why is there another kitchen, spring light
always darkening in it and
a woman whispering to a man
over and over what else could we have done?

               4.

We failed our moment or our moment failed us.
The times were grand in size and we were small.
Why do I write that
when I don't believe it?

We lived our lives, were happy, stayed as one.
Children were born and raised here
and are gone,
including ours.

As for that couple did we ever
find out who they were
and did we want to?
I think we know. I think we always knew.

More by Eavan Boland

Atlantis—A Lost Sonnet

How on earth did it happen, I used to wonder
that a whole city—arches, pillars, colonnades, 
not to mention vehicles and animals—had all 
one fine day gone under?

I mean, I said to myself, the world was small then.
Surely a great city must have been missed?
I miss our old city —

white pepper, white pudding, you and I meeting 
under fanlights and low skies to go home in it. Maybe 
what really happened is 

this: the old fable-makers searched hard for a word
to convey that what is gone is gone forever and 
never found it. And so, in the best traditions of 

where we come from, they gave their sorrow a name
and drowned it.

Amethyst Beads


And when I take them out of
the cherrywood box these beads are
the colour of dog-violets in shadow. Then
at the well of the throat where
tears start
they darken. Now I wear at my neck an old stress
of crystal: an impression of earthly housekeeping.
A mysterious brightness
made underground where there is no sun
only stories of a strayed child and her mother bargaining
with a sullen king. Promising and arguing: 
what she can keep, what she can let him have. Shadows 
and the season violets start up in are part of 
the settlement. Stolen from such a place
these beads cannot be anything 
but wise to the healing arts of compromise,
of survival. And when I wear them it is almost
as if my skin was taking into itself
a medicine of light. Something like the old simples.
Rosemary, say, or tansy.
Or camomile which they kept
to cool fever. Which they once used to soothe a child
tossing from side to side, beads of sweat catching 
and holding a gleam from the vigil lamp. 
A child crying out in her sleep
Wait for me. Don’t leave me here.
Who will never remember this.
Who will never remember this. 

Heroic

Sex and history. And skin and bone.
And the oppression of Sunday afternoon.
Bells called the faithful to devotion.

I was still at school and on my own.
And walked and walked and sheltered from the rain.

The patriot was made of drenched stone.
His lips were still speaking. The gun
he held had just killed someone.

I looked up. And looked at him again.
He stared past me without recognition.

I moved my lips and wondered how the rain
would taste if my tongue were made of stone.
And wished it was. And whispered so that no one
could hear it but him. Make me a heroine.